This week’s Stargirl talks about slut-shaming and teen bullying by tastefully taking on the topic with a well-rounded approach.
I wasn’t a part of the age of image sexting. At least, not in high school. The term, and the practice, of taking nude selfies and sending them to a partner was not as big of practice compared to today.
I attended school when the age of the internet and social media was just blooming. When Myspace was still a thing, smartphones didn’t exist just yet, and the only image you could take was a blurry low-resolution photograph on a $200 digital camera.
Overall, it was a different generation.
Then, the internet took off in an unprecedented fashion. As online pornography rose, so did access to information on things, such as Wikipedia. Reddit began a hub of the best and worst of the internet. The use of social media, like Facebook, rose along with recording your own material via YouTube.
The cultural zeitgeist started incorporating digital identities. Parts of ourselves accessible to everyone online. This fostered a lot of the initial culture of the internet, leading to trends, such as image sexting, making matters more taboo, intimate, yet also: much worse in terms of its usage with the youth.
Because there were no guidelines to this. About people sharing naked imagery, digital intimacy, and the legality of it all. Entirely new grounds that, initially, people were not sure of how to approach. I say this because this episode starts by tackling this difficult-to-talk-about subject.
And the show isn’t afraid to steer away from such heavy material, which is good.
We follow this journey in this week’s episode with the story of Yolanda Montex (Yvette Monreal), who, so far as we know, is the girl that’s been slut-shamed throughout the school. She bonds with Courtney over a shared dislike of her ex-partner Henry King, the son of the supervillain Brainwave.
Needing to make new friend, and strangely, recruit new Justice Society of America members (I know. That’s crazy to do with someone you just met. Just go with it), Courtney very much dedicates the episode in befriending Yolanda and the two bond. While the two learn a lot about each other, and Courtney sees if Yolanda is a good fit to become the new Wildcat, they decide to take their friendship to the next level and become superheroes (which only works because of the campiness of this show). The duo go and check on Brainwave to find any clues, leading to several surprising encounters and secrets.
I liked it. I normally hate this kind of thing, but I absolutely liked it. The positivity is infectious, and it’s the only reason it’s buyable. Courtney’s affirmations and Yolanda’s need to find herself again after having her identity publicly tainted feels real and makes for good dramatic tension.
It also ties back to the idea of destiny (also, just convenient/lazy happenstantial writing). As Stargirl believes Starman is her father (I have a feeling he’s not) and her destiny is to stop the injustice society, I believe it will most likely happen with her stepfather S.T.R.I.P.E. (Though I say this only because it’s Luke Wilson and the comic is about Stars and Stripes and the justice that’s due for his friends, too).
We also get to follow Pat’s investigation and see the fate of Denise Zarick and the deaths of the Wizard’s family. The B plot highlights that the show has consequences, reminding the audience that despite the campiness: lives are on the line.
Wildcat is pretty much the show-stealer in this episode. She simply nails it in every scene. We learn that she’s sort of the Jill-of-all-trades and seems like a highly capable girl, albeit is publicly scorned and ridiculed, having no chance to step up to the plate in life because of her shame and desire to keep a low-profile. It’s obvious Yolanda/Wildcat is set up to be the Batman to Stargirl’s Superman, the stealthy ninja with her head on straight, to Stargirl’s brute force and star-spangled spirit.
What I like most about Yolanda is that she’s her own person. A strong girl, who had fallen for the wrong boy, inevitably dealing with her own public shaming, thus forcing her into an exploration of self-identity. Her family issues, I believe, mirror a lot of the drama you’d expect from a modern family of someone these events had happened to. And I love how unforgiving it is in regard: the family, particularly her mother, and how she handles it by grounding, shaming, and punishing Yolanda.
It’s probably the best thing about this episode as it yet again subverts the pilot’s wholesome pre-established expectations. Like the town, the image of the goodhearted community seems to be slowly giving way to shadier roots, systemic patriarchy, and outdated notions of slut-shaming.
It now makes sense of how the town is run secretly by supervillains. Everyone is apparently fake, holds a secret identity, and has biased built-on evil. I like that they lean into this as I was dreading the latter acts of this episode — especially in regards to how I thought they’d handle Yolanda’s story — only to be pleasantly surprised in the outcome and how the series did not take the easy way out.
It’s a complex issue that deserves its discourse and the show bravely did not pivot away: bravo.
Justice Society Assemble!
Early on this episode, we see Courtney, friendless, though with different items she’d taken from the justice society of America: things like the Green Lantern, Flash’s helmet, and, for this episode, Wildcat’s suit. Courtney is forced to make some friends at her high school in this episode. Inevitably, she spends half-the-day befriending one who will also become a member of the new Justice Society of America. Because, why not make complete high school strangers as you superhero partners? It’s absurd, but it works because we sort of expect this by now: that everyone in this town is a hero or villain of some sort.
Despite this development, I have to admit the masks look stupid in this series. They’re clunky, oversized, and pull away from the actor’s facial expressions. Just awful. Atop of this, the effects seem to be very low-budget compared to the pilot and it’s becoming noticeable. Wildcat’s climbing and her and Stargirl’s CGI outside of a hospital was just plain awful in this one. The kind of special effects I could emulate with some Photoshop, $50, and a YouTube tutorial.
Still, the assembly of the Justice Society running parallel to the villain-of-the-week member reveals of the Injustice Society are honestly the biggest arcs and hooks that the show is going somewhere. It’s also heavily implied that Beth Chapel is going to become a superheroine too.
Overall, Stargirl is finally going somewhere, and I do not dread the show as much as I had initially. My only concern is that there are a lot of loose threads involved and I wonder how Pat/S.T.R.I.P.E.S. will find his way back in Stargirl’s superhero life.
Likewise, I feel like Amy Smart is being severely underutilized. And I could very much do without the younger brother, Mike Dugan — who is often there just so Luke Wilson or Amy Smart have someone to talk with. Mike’s role so far is to simply scream: I’M A KID WHO EATS JUNK FOOD AND PLAYS VIDEO GAMES.
Which so far, has meant as much to the story as it has for this review: absolutely nothing.
Either give him a purpose to the show or send him off to video game production camp.